The Art of Defacement – A Recap

Beautiful Error by Katoanga Finau
Beautiful Error by Katoanga Finau

Back to the Begginning:  Part 1

Previous Post in Series:  Part 13 I

This is my continuing study of art that distorts, smears, or obscures the faces of its subjects. I am trying to get my head around this art – in all its forms. It seems to me to be almost an art movement – there are hundreds of artists that do this type of work exclusively. They are men and women from around the world. They are educated, self taught, professional, and hobbyist. They work in all different genres from photography to sculpture. I think ultimately my goal is to understand what this art says about our world, the culture of our world. I think that collectively this art is saying something about this moment, I think that it means something beyond simply someone smearing their fingers through the paint on a persons face. So I muddle, picking through the minutia of art, looking at different works, parsing them for meaning, comparing them and writing ridiculously ungrammatical sentences. As always if you see your art here and want me to remove it please email me at and I will take it down right away. None of this art is mine. All art is attributed, and if you click on it will take you to the spot where I found it.

I will get back to Part 13 with part 2, but first  a quick recap with some more Art of Defacement:

Artists had begun freeing themselves from strict representation.    This had happened before, but in the past art that wasn’t literal had been tied deeply to religious and pagan symbolism.  There are always always exceptions.  In his painting Munvch attempted to recreate an emtional state – he was attempting to recreate a static moment though.


The Scream -  Edvard Munch
The Scream – Edvard Munch


Portrait of Ambroise Vollard by Pablo Picasso
Portrait of Ambroise Vollard by Pablo Picasso


Cubists like Pablo Picasso were attempting to add another dimension to their work – to capture a person or object over time.  To capture movement, to capture frames over time, to capture multiple planes of a person or object on a flat surface.  They were actually not trying to represent the inner emotional state, or to capture the soul of a person, or to interpret the essence of person.  Nor were they attempting to capture a static moment or experience.


Fishing -  Jean-Michel Basquiat
Fishing – Jean-Michel Basquiat


More contemporary work, like that of Basquiat’s are intensely symbolic.  The face may be difficult to interpret as an individual, but it has another meaning and not one personal to the author; this is more of a political work, not a psychoanalytic one.   Nor is this work about an emotion.  So without further ado – here are contemporary works of Defacement.

Interior XV by Agata Baltyzar
Interior XV by Agata Baltyzar


This work’s title “Interior” isn’t so much about inside a house or building but about the “interior” of a person – their interior psychological or emotional space.  This is symbolic, but the symbolism is known perhaps only to the artist, or if you are on her wave length (ugh bad pun) it might make sense to you.  Again, there are no faces – this is an anonymous space, because faces give specificity to the person(s) in art.


Collage by Manu Duf
Collage by Manu Duf


There are many many examples of defacement in collage art.  A large percentage of these collages use old images – older photographs, magazines, books or vintage printed materials.  This is because these materials are not copyrighted, and are therefore free to use without upsetting another artist.


Richard Vergez,  James Gallagher,  Eva Eun-Sil Han, Rocio Montoya, Argyle Plaids, Alma Haser, Eugenia Loli

Why do so many collage artists cover up or distort the faces in their collages?  I think two things right now – maybe, just maybe these faces seem unfamiliar.  The faces are made up differently, the hair is different and they are not, well, us.  Also the face is where we first look.  Previously I had mentioned a book I found on art history (Part 12), and in talking about the face and facial expressions the author says,

Whether by instinct or by very early training, we are certainly ever disposed to single out the expressive features of a face from the chaos that surrounds it, and to respond to its slightest variations with fear or joy.

(VIA Art Theory and Criticism: An Anthology of Formalist, Avant-Garde, Contexualist and Post Modern Thought Pg. 48 – Edited by Sally Everett)

So to make a statement, to get the biggest impact – do something with the face.  Maybe an octopus, a parakeet, or a carnation?  This is only a recap – I’m still scratching the surface.  This art is complicated, because we as international people who communicate, share, sell, create and buy art online are complicated.  We have a complicated history, and a complicated present that involves culture, race, gender, age, war, migration, environmental upheaval, political upheaval and well I’m sure I’m missing something.  The borders have disappeared online.  All this art I found online, and you are reading this and looking at it online.  You may not even be able to read english – you may have put this through a translator.  Some of these artist’s web pages are not in English, and yet I can appreciate their art, and put it in a context of other artist’s work.

I think that working through Francis Bacon’s paintings, and his thoughts on art are helping me understand more.  I will finish chapter 13 part II with more on Francis Bacon and religion, and also clarify what I said about gambling in part I as well.   More soon – enjoy more art of defacement!

Seated Woman - Francis Bacon
Seated Woman – Francis Bacon


Here are some more works of defacement:

Charcoal on paper by Heidi Yardley
Charcoal on paper by Heidi Yardley


Retro Pop Emoticons by Butcher Billy
Retro Pop Emoticons by Butcher Billy


untitled by Phil Hale
untitled by Phil Hale


Self Portrait with Mirror by Elene Usdin
Self Portrait with Mirror by Elene Usdin


untitled work by David Mrmor
untitled work by David Mramor


GIF art by Bill Domonkos
GIF art by Bill Domonkos


City of the Sun – Everything is happening, The clouds have parted, I’m free

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